Rest Day Round-up #2

Slightly different format this week.

Cavendish

The rest day couldn’t come soon enough for Cavendish, and the other sprinters, although it didn’t come soon enough for Demare or Merlier who were eliminated on the road to Tignes. My prediction was Cav would get to 33 and that would be that, eliminated on the Ventoux stage. I already talked about my hat eating recipe, with a sauce au poivre in my Ventoux report. But it was how he racked up stage win #3 for this tour and #33 in total. It was a blast from the HTC past the way Deceuninck-QuickStep rode that stage, perfectly controlled through the day, the breakaway never had a chance. Seeing the world champ pulling on the front is a wonderful sight. Although I remember 2012 and Cav doing the same for Wiggins. The lead out was text book, no one stood a chance. Michael Mørkøv delivered the Manx missile 150m from the line, Van Aert and Philipsen stuck their noses out into the wind, but it was all over by then and Cav’s arms were in the air.

I already ate my words on the Ventoux report, with Cav being encouraged up the double ascent of the Giant of Provence. I heard today there were photos of Bouhani holding onto the team car. I guess you can’t hide these days.

Cavendish’s 34th win was a less convincing win. In his interviews I get the impression he is on his hands and knees already. But after the sprint teams took a day off the previous day, the flatter stages were running out for Cavendish to equal Eddy Merkcx’s record, especially before 4 tough days in the Pyrenees, so Friday was his last chance, as who knows what might happen. It looked like it could be another Deceuninck-QuickStep controlled stage, but with a big crash taking out Time “The Tractor” Declercq the lost the big engine that would drag the breakaway back. So it was once again left to the rest of the team, and mainly the World Champ, Alaphilippe, to control the break and gradually bring them back. They seemed to have it under control but Cav lost the wheels on the chaotic run in to town. Within the final kilometer he managed to find Mørkøvs wheel and with the line approaching stuck his wheel out to come around Mørkøv. I think the Dane had to tickle the anchors a bit to let Cav take his 4th win and equal Eddy’s record of 34 stage victories in the Tour.

Can he now beat the record? I did some googling about how the time cut is calculated. Geez, it’s complicated. but last nights stage was not that hard in comparison to some to come, and the Grupetto had about 42 minutes after the winner to be safe. So that being said Cav might actually make it to Paris. Unless of course he really is totally buggered.

Break-aways

There had not been any breakaways that had succeeded yet in this Tour. Not unusual after week one, but you normally get one maybe after the rest day. However, after the Ventoux stage, I think everyone wanted another rest day, so all the sprint teams took a day off. a 13 man breakaway went at the beginning of the day, Peloton went “Giddy-up” slipped it into 2nd gear and let them go. It was one of cyclings nice guys Nils Politt who succeeded in taking his first tour victory. There were a few sprinters in the breakaway, trying to get a few points for the green jersey, so he attacked not once, but twice to get rid of them. He rode the last 12km solo to take a famous victory. It’s hard to believe that this is probably the only breakaway that will suceed this tour. There are mountain stages and sprint stages left, so suspect any more breaks with be futile.

The Mountains

I suppose Stage 14 on Saturday was a breakaway, but with three 2nd category climb, and two 3rd categories I count that as a mountain stage, albeit a small mountain. It was the hors d’oeuvre for what was about to come over the following 4 days, not including the rest day. The favourites all took it easy as did the sprinters who were even further back. But it still made for an exciting race as Frenchman Guillaume Martin had slipped into the break. He was 9th overall at the start of the day and by the end of it would vault himself into 2nd. Incidentally Guillaume is French for Liam, and my 2nd name is Martin. So I have a bit of affinity with the Frenchman, sharing a name. In the race however, Bauke Mollema was the strongest on the day, dropping the rest of his breakaway buddies on the 5th climb of the day, increasing his lead to about a minute as he went over the final climb, and they would never see him again as the final 17km were mainly downhill. A deserved win after a 3rd place on the Ventoux stage.

Last night was the first proper night in the Pyrenees with three 1st Cats and a 2nd cat. And it was a group of 2nd category climbers who got away from the Peloton to contest the stage win. One of the interesting competitions in this years tour seems to be the Polka-dot jersey. It has changed hands a few times and there are four riders in a few points of each other, Woods, Poels, Quintana and Van Aert. It was these four riders who were in the break and contesting the points. the day started off with Woods in the jersey, but would finish with Poels puting on the jersey he had held during the first week. I suspect it will change hands a few more times in the next 4 days… One rider not interested in the jersey was Sepp Kuss, the American from Colorado. It was in interesting fact I heard while watching, that the last American victory in the Tour was Tyler Farrar, 10 years ago, his only individual Tour de France stage win. Kuss, last year was Roglic’s key mountain domestique, and he announced himself as a great climber. But with Roglic crashing out, that opened the door for Kuss to have a crack himself, and that is exactly what he did while the other squabbled over polka dot points. He only had 20 seconds on Valverde going into the final descent, but Valverde had a couple of moments, so decided keeping skin was more important than a stage win.

What I found really interesting was the the silliness in the Yellow jersey group. On the final climb both Ben O’Conner and Jonas Vingegaard attacked the group. What on earth were they thinking? There was a 15km descent after the final climb, and Pogacar is a great descender. Even if they did drop him by a few seconds, he was always going to get back on. in the end it almost cost the exuberant O’Conner a place as his efforts caused him to get dropped just before the top of the climb. In the end he managed to get back on and finish in the group. The yo-yo, Guillaume Martin, who started the day in 2nd, got dropped on the descent before the last climb. That boy needs to eat a few more pies. The amount of extra energy he used trying to get back on on the descent cost him a podium, finishing the day in 9th place.

The last news I heard was that the 41 year old Valverde has signed a new 10 year contract with Movistar to take him to his 51st birthday. He said he would then consider his retirement, or whether he might continue for a few more years.

Chapeau au poivre

I was nervous getting up this morning. Did England beat Denmark and did Cav beat the time limit? Watching on the SBS Tour tracker he was right at the back with 5 Quickstep teammates for company, they were all-in to save him. But going into the final climb he was more than 20 minutes back, and then the SBS Tour tracker stopped tracking the back markers! I was as interested in that as what was happening at the front. Wout Van Aert, “climbs alright for a fat bloke”, something Bif used to say about me. He is like a better version of Sagan. He can sprint better than Sagan, he can climb better than Sagan, and he isn’t a nob like Sagan. I loved the look on his face after he went solo, trance like. It was like he was shutting down all non-essential systems to just get blood to his legs. I thought, if the Pog goes, he will mow him down by the top. But obviously the Pog was playing poker, and for once did not have a full house. Great attack from Vinegaard. But don’t be fooled by the commentators, it does not give anyone hope of pulling back more than 5 minutes on the Pog! I was initially worried it was an Astana 2009, attack your team mate moment, but suspect he was under instructions from the team, when they figured Wout was safe to go over the top first. Aussie sport reporters who sometimes have no clue, sorry Macca, you are in that group, and I even hate to say it, Keeno last night. O’Conner wins in Tignes and suddenly it is not off the cards he can get yellow. What are you thinking Macca? I expect that rubbish from Tommo. Obviously he went really deep to win the Tignes stage, he is not a proven 3 week stage racer (yet), he is going to have to give the tickets he borrowed back, and so he did yesterday. And Keeno, last night when they showed O’Conner in the yellow group, “riding his own rhythm”. I looked at that image from the chopper and I recognized the squares he was pedaling, having been there many many times. Sure enough next shot he was going out the back. Come on Keeno, you used to race FFS!

To quote another rubbish reporter, O’Dirty from the CCC Gazette in his rest day report, “I just hope he can get over the double ascent of the Ventoux…. I think he may win one more and be agonizingly close at #33, that is the way the universe kicks you in the butt.”. Cav proved me wrong last night, but can he get to Paris, I will say no so he can keep proving me wrong, as that seems to be working. The butter is in the pan, and I am slicing the hat as we speak, and for desert I will be having some humble pie…

Cavendish is all class, even while battling the time limit, although by the time they got to the Simpson memorial I suspect they knew they were safe, he took time to honour Tommy Simpson. https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/watch-mark-cavendish-tips-his-helmet-to-tom-simpson-as-he-battles-mont-ventoux. Plus Sagan is not really a nob, he also paid his respects to Simpson.

Last night was both beautiful and painful for me to watch. I did the same climb of Ventoux from Bédoin, then descending to Malaucène in 2004 with Bif. It’s funny how they say the climb starts at the restaurant on the corner with 17km to go, rather than in Bédoin at 22km to go. I had heard that morsel of useless information when I struck out from coffee in Bédoin. However, I was already in my lowest gear by that corner and the prospect of another 2 hours in and out of the saddle. When I said I rode the climb with Bif, well we were on it at the same time at some point, he finished 20 minutes ahead of me. I did do him in the sprint to Vaison-la-Romaine after the descent though…

Rest Day round-up #1

First of all I would like to apologize to you, my Tour de France family, and to the children who benefit from your generous donations, for not running the TdF tipping again this year. It has been another tough year for everyone around the world, with COVID. But it has been a particularly tough year for the C.C.Coglioni family as we lost my great friend, and fellow Coglioni founder, Bif, to a tragic cycling accident. To be honest cycling has not exactly been at the forefront of my mind recently, but with some subtle badgering from members of the Coglioni, and what is a fascinating Tour de France, I thought I would metaphorically get back on the bike, and give my thoughts on this years Tour through a rest day recap. No donations required, but I promise, the tipping will be back next year!

What a year’s it’s been in the cycling world. It seems like only 9 months ago that Pogačar was winning the tour, oh wait, that was only 9 moths ago. With COVID, the 2020 season was crammed into such a short time-frame, maybe that is why this tour seems like the biggest rollarcoaster at Dreamworld, with only one constant at the end of the first week, Tadej Pogačar.

Please excuse typos and spelling…

Stage 1: Brest – Landerneau

Normally this time of year I would be preparing for my bi-annual jaunt across the world for a conference. But the best part of that trip is stopping off in Brittany to visit work colleagues/friends, which is the only thing I miss about my world travel stopping. The tour was to spend 4 days in Brittany, the hotbed of French cycling. The last tour winner, Bernard Hinault, my idol growing up, is from just outside Brest, so it was fitting the tour should start from there. For those people in the group who know Brittany you will know how narrow the roads are generally, I guess the local councils are saving money on tarmac. I am sure the cyclists know how narrow they are as well, and with all the jerseys up for grabs in the first few days of the tour, maybe Brittany is not the best place to start a bike race! It was always going to be competitive, and a bit tricky, but who could prepare us for the carnage that happened on the first stage. 45km to go, and some Numpty, decides to get her mug on TV and hold out a sign, a sign that stretched a meter into a road that seems like only 4 meters wide. Tony Martin was probably going 50kph at the time. In a big group you are constantly focusing on different things, the wheels in front, proximity of other riders. He had probably focused ahead a second before that dopey mare stuck her sign out. It was probably a colour that blended into the surrounds, plus, you are traveling at 50kph. It was not his fault. F*cking idiots wanting to see themselves on TV…. Anyway, they found her, ASO decided not to sue her, but she may still get sued by Marc Soler, who, although he finished the stage, he did not start the next day, somehow riding to the finish with 2 broken arms and not being able to stand. His season is over, and so is hers… There was another pile up with a few km to go caused by a touch of wheels in the Peloton, again a massive number of riders hitting the deck. Froome looked the worst, and we all held our breath after his accident 2 years ago. Somehow he finished, and he is still in the Tour at the rest day. After the carnage we got back to the racing and it was once again Alaphilippe who laid down a perfect uphill sprint to take the Tours first yellow jersey. For us Aussies, it was encouraging to see Matthews take 2nd on the stage.

Stage 2: Perros-Gueirec – Mûr de Bretagne

Another day not for the sprinters, with another tough uphill finish. There was no doubt that Alaphilippe would either win again, or at worst hold onto yellow. No crashes of note thankfully, but a lot of finger pointing, was it the riders fault or was it the organizers fault. The finish would be 2 laps up the Mûr de Bretagne, the “Wall of Brittany” and what unfolded was both unbelievable but not unexpected when you mention the name Mattieu van der Poel. His father is Adrie van der Poel, a pretty handy rider, winning six classics (Tour of Flanders twice), two stages of the Tour de France and the World Cyclo-Cross Championships in 1996. Mattieu’s grand-father wasn’t a bad rider either, a bloke called Raymond Poulidor, affectionately known as Pou-Pou. However, he was known as “The Eternal Second”, because he never won the Tour de France despite finishing in second place three times, and in third place five times Despite his consistency, he never once wore the yellow jersey as leader of the general classification in 14 Tours. So today’s stage was going to be special. Van der Poel started the stage 18 seconds behind Alaphilippe, so there was no chance he could put that amount of time into the Frenchman on the final climb, so he came up with an audacious plan. Attack on the first ascent and get the bonus seconds, no one could follow, but they caught him on the descent, part of the plan, even though they probably thought he was going for a long attack. Then on the 2nd ascent, attack again. He needed both the bonus seconds for the stage win, and enough of a gap to Alaphilippe to take the Yellow jersey, a plan which he executed to perfection. Crossing the line, pointing to the sky brought a tear to my eye, not the first one this tour, as Pou-Pou died in 2019. He won a yellow jersey for his grand-father, and once he crossed the line and realized his plan had worked he himself was in tears, and it was the same in the post race interview “I have no words. Really I don’t know what to say,”… Chapeau Mattieu and Chapeau Pou-Pou!

Stage 3: Lorient – Pontivy

Day 3 in Brittany and an unwelcome return to the crashes close to the finish. Last years 2nd place getter, Roglič, hooked handlebars with Colbrelli and hit the deck hard, losing a load of bark. Then 4km later another crash held up Pogačar. May pre tour favorites had hit the deck and were nursing sore bones or lack of skin, the latter affecting sleep and recovery. Pogačar, whilst held up, I don’t believe he has performed a close ground inspection yet, maybe why he is in yellow. But the last crash was the worst, certainly for Aussie fans and the Peter Sagan fan club. Going into the final 250m of the sprint Caleb Ewan went for the same piece of road as Tim Melier and overlapped the wheel. Totally Ewan’s fault, which he acknowledged, but it was a violent crash that brought the out-of-form Sagan down as well. Sagan had a softer landing using Ewan as a cushion. The door was however wide open for Merlier to take his first TdF win. I think he would have been hard to beat anyway, as he is a quality sprinter, but we all know Ewan would have come over the top of him. But a great day for the wild card team of Alpecin Fenix, with their 2nd stage win in a row. Even though it was not his fault this time, it is good to see Sagan is not fast enough to be as much of a crash menace that he normally is. Well done for Caleb sacrificing himself, but Sagan is too smart, and used Caleb as a landing cushion! Read this – https://cyclingtips.com/2021/06/the-secret-pro-tour-de-france-sagan/

Stage 4: Redon – Fougères

I fell asleep with 10km to go, not for the first time this year. Have not got my Tour clock working. England were playing Germany in the Euros that night as well. I woke up thinking I had read that Germany beat England again, something we have had to get used to post 1966. But then on my phone I saw an notification, England 2 – Germany 0, your bewdy!! I was at the 1996 Euros semi-final where England lost on penalties, and the current coach Gareth Southgate missed one of them. Little did I know as I turn the TV on for the morning highlights, that my day was about to get better. There was a long breakaway with Brent Van Moer trying to win for Caleb. It looked like the sprinters teams had got their maths wrong and he would hold out for a famous victory. But with 300m to go they were almost upon him. The last few hundred meters and Cavendish was still near the front. Don’t be ridiculous, the old fox can’t win, or can he? With each meter my bum came a bit more off the couch, and with 100m to go I was shouting at the TV. Not sure what the neighbors were thinking, but at least it wasn’t 11:30pm if I had stayed awake. Give the Mank Missile a sniff, a gap, and he will take it and sure enough, he squeezed passed Van Moer and launched for the line taking an unbelievable victory, his 31st in the TdF, now only 3 behind Eddy Merckx. Cav has been in the wilderness these last 3 years, with 2 bouts of Epstein Barr syndrome, and depression. The latter no doubt caused by the former. He was not brought to the Tour by Dimension Data due to a fall out with the principle there, and his time last year at Bahrain Merida was not worth mentioning. His career was over until Patrick Lefevere gave gim a lifeline. Lefevere is a cheapskate and hates paying top doller for any cyclist, it’s why many good cyclists, who are successful at Quickstep normally move on to chase the $$. So he paid Kmart prices for Cav, probably because, to be honest, that is all he was worth. Even then Cav was not due to ride the Tour, but an injury, and a bit of a beef between Lefevere and Bennett opened the door. Cav repaid his faith, and once again we say a ride cross the line and collapse in tears. He could not even speak in the post stage interview. I cried, and I am proud to say that…

Stage 5: Changé – Laval Espace Mayenne (ITT)

This will be short. This year we see the return of double TTs to the race, like the 90s, although not as long as the old days of Indurain smashing everyone in the TTs and then hanging on in the mountains. The question was could van der Poel hang on to yellow. In the end he did, but since the crassh marred opening stages I have said it was now Pogačar’s race to lose. So he started off not losing it by winning the TT. All the other guys are all snot and drool as they finish, but Pogačar looks as cool as a cucumber. He was so eager to get going he jumped out of the start gate with 1 second to go. Yeah, even if it they penalized him, he still won by 19 seconds. Great TT from VDP coming in 5th and only losing 31 seconds.

Stage 6: Tours – Chàteauroux

Another day, another chance for the sprinters, only the 2nd sprint stage. But the unbelievable was about to happen again, Cav was about to take TdF win number 32. His team were immense, with a huge lead out from world champion, Alaphilippe to get him near the front, and then Michael Mørkøv, his lead out man took over. But on the other side of the road, the yellow jersey of van der Poel was dragging his sprinters to the line and they launched and it all came together in a spearhead in the middle of the road. The Alpecin guys were in a better position than Mørkøv so Cav jumped on their wheel. Merlier finished his lead out and Philipsen and Cav went around either side of him. But Cav had another sniff of the line and Philipsen could not stay with him. I will be honest, I thought the tour would be over for Cav now. Yeah, he would survive the next hilly day, but without any serious racing in his legs he was unlikely to make it through the 2 big days in the alpes. Even if he can, I just hope he can get over the double ascent of the Ventoux. I really can’t see anyone except Merlier beating him at the moment. What were Alpacin thinking going with Philipsen? Maybe spreading the wins around, which is actually an admirable idea. Massive lead out bt VDP, brilliant. But fatigue will affect everyone and who knows what that will bring by next week. I think he may win one more and be agonisingly close at #33, that is the way the universe kicks you in the butt. He missed out on 5+ years worth of chances. Crashing in stage 1 in Harrogate cos he wanted yellow too much, when he did not have the legs. He was at fault, no doubt about it. Then the year he did not have great form, and Sagan ran him into the barrier. His last participation where the climbing was mad, plus he probably had Epsteins at that point and got eliminated. To his credit, he never climbed off, he rode to the finish. I don’t care what anyone says, he has more respect for the Tour than anyone. Then the last 3 years in the wilderness through illness and Quebeka not bringing him to the Tour (nobs). He could have hit #40 I reckon.

Stage 7: Vierzon – La Creusot

What a mad stage on Friday. I was going to bed early, but got caught up in drama. The yellow jersey of VDP, green of Cav and some other notable riders formed a breakaway that took over 6 minutes on the peloton. Pogačar’s team had to do the lions share of the chasing, as he is still favorite, but the quality of the break ensured they would not see them again. In the end, the other forgotten Slovenian, Matej Mohorič, took the stage win with a solo break from the group. Another stage, another rider crying at the finish line, am loving the emotion in this tour. VDP easily held onto yellow for one more day, but with the big mountains to come, for how long? This is one crazy-assed tour. In the end no damage done for the Pog. Wasn’t sure what they were doing Jumbo, Ineos were a bit smarter, let the UAE guys burn themselves out for tomorrow. But hey, Pogačar didn’t need a team last year, why would he need one this year! Long time coming for Mohoric. he kinda got overtaken by the other 2 boys, Pogačar and Roglic, in the last couple of years, but that is a stage in every grand tour for him now. Maybe Roglic told them to. Maybe he is just really banged up after that crash, I guess we don’t know yet. Great ride from Cav to get in the break. But I doubt he can make it to Paris which saddens me a lot. I hate knowing this sport like I do. Please prove me wrong Cav. You can guarantee he won’t give it up and just roll over, he will fight to the end.

Stage 8: Oyonnax – Le Grand Bornard

First day in the high mountains and time to see who has any tickets left in Grande Boucle. Unfortunately, the only one who does is Pogačar. A break was left to go, but with about 30km to The Pog launched. Carapaz gave some stout defense for a couple of minutes but then his legs said no, and as much as he told them to shut up, they were not listening. The Pog then proceeded to put 3 minutes into his main rivals, although I am not really sure who they are right now. Dylan Teuns got away from the breakaway and soloed across the line, as we saw another rider in tears, dedicating the win to his grand-father, who has died just before the Tour started. The Pog took yellow, and this Tour was starting to look boring. In other news Cav held on for another day…

Stage 9: Cluses – Tignes

Did someone say boring? What was that about, yep another break, we are all used to that. But who is the Fremantle boy from WA, Ben O’Conner. OK, he did win a stage in the Giro last year, and looked pretty good in this years Dauphine, and he was sitting in 14th place at 08:13 behind the Pog. But somehow the break got near 8:30 on the yellow jersey group, and Ben was in virtual yellow. He was looking strong but had a pair of Colombians for company who tried to work him over on the steeper 2nd last climb. But he stuck to his rhythm and caught them before the final climb before dropping them and soloing to a famous and first TdF victory. He may not have got yellow of Pogačar, a feat no one is likely to do, but he moved up to 2nd place overall. I am eager to see how he handles the Ventoux on Wednesday, as that may tell if he can hang on to a podium in Paris. Mission accomplished by Quintana, 2 days in a row in the break, polka dot jersey. 2 rest days for him, then sit on the wheels on Wednesday and steal more points. I was afraid to look regarding Cav, but in other news, he hung on again to stay with in the time limit. He rode in with 3 team mates, I wonder how many hands were on his bum on the steep bits. Just read that Demare and Coquard were outside the time limit, and Merlier did not start! 3 sprinters gone, and the old, under-raced Cavendish battles on! Maybe he can take #33…

The final countdown

Now the bit I enjoy most, watching the hopes of many dashed as the final jerseys points get allocated.

Polka Dot Jersey
The first of the jerseys to have points allocated will be the Polka Dot or mountains jersey. No change at the top with TMV4 looking a bit vulnerable. A general reshuffling below with big movers into the top 10. Big winner in the polka dots was Mitchell  Johnson who has made no 3 in the batting order. Where did Rusty Dog disappear to? He was looking strong, and suddenly got swamped with Heartthrobs 04 hitting the bottom.

Ranked scores after stage PD
Rank Prev Direction Player Score
1 1 TMV4 1393
2 2 Italian Chris 1337
3 20 ↑17 Mitchell Johnson 1309
4 4 Sicknote 4 1267
5 3 ↓2 Giant Scott 1261
6 21 ↑15 Kelsey Machine 1236
7 5 ↓2 Isabelle the Princess of Goulburn 1231
8 23 ↑15 Sara Green Machine 1219
9 25 ↑16 Safari Mkubwa 1194
10 9 ↓1 Fat lasses at the Back 2 1175
308 306 ↓2 Mrs Green Machine 269
309 308 ↓1 Sicknote 1 238
310 310 Rollie 228
311 309 ↓2 Dungeon Master 223
312 311 ↓1 Heartthrobs04 203

Green Jersey

On to the Green jersey points. Finally a change at the top, with Sicknote 4 making a 2nd foray to the top end of the table. A lot of the usual suspects of the last 3 weeks hanging around. Three new entries into the top 10 with Gus Gilmour, Grandma Rebel and TheBehms all making a play for the top! Rusty Dog slips back into the bottom 5 but the teams below him remain strong, not moving a place.

Ranked scores after stage G
Rank Prev Direction Player Score
1 4 ↑3 Sicknote 4 1441
2 1 ↓1 TMV4 1429
3 7 ↑4 Isabelle the Princess of Goulburn 1409
4 2 ↓2 Italian Chris 1389
5 3 ↓2 Mitchell Johnson 1361
6 8 ↑2 Sara Green Machine 1329
7 19 ↑12 Gus Gilmour 1322
8 24 ↑16 Grandma Rebel 1294
9 14 ↑5 TheBehms 1290
10 6 ↓4 Kelsey Machine 1288
308 307 ↓1 Rusty Dog 290
309 309 Sicknote 1 238
310 310 Rollie 228
311 311 Dungeon Master 223
312 312 Heartthrobs04 203

Yellow Jersey

Now the big one, with points allocated for the top 20. This is the jersey that normally has the biggest effect on the competition. Coming up on the rails, from absolutely nowhere, is Gaz, up 24 points. I guess it helps having Thomas and Bernal in your team. First prize goes to Gaz. In fact there was a pattern, with Send in the clowns up 16 to 2nd courtesy of Bernal and Kruijswijk. Then Safari Mkubwa, up a massive 20 places, again thanks to Bernal.  Some other huge movers into the top 10, the biggest being Mark Ella, up 34 places, but just falls short of the prizes in 8th.  At the bottom there is no movement so the prize money goes to the bottom 5.

Ranked scores after stage Y
Rank Prev Direction Player Score
1 25 ↑24 Gaz 1871
2 18 ↑16 Send in the Clowns 1870
3 23 ↑20 Safari Mkubwa 1790
4 10 ↑6 Kelsey Machine 1688
5 15 ↑10 Spartacus 1671
6 27 ↑21 Castlemaine Cycling Collective 1 1658
7 13 ↑6 Chuck Charity 1 1657
8 42 ↑34 Mark Ella 1640
9 28 ↑19 Gobi 1612
10 3 ↓7 Isabelle the Princess of Goulburn 1609
308 308 Rusty Dog 290
309 309 Sicknote 1 238
310 310 Rollie 228
311 311 Dungeon Master 223
312 312 Heartthrobs04 203

Team Prize

The team prize is allocated to the lowest time of each teams top 3 riders. This years winner, making up for missing out in the final standings, goes to Mark Ella, outdoing Gobi by 3 minutes and Spartacus 2 in 3rd.

Mark Ella 249:18:24 (Thomas, Alaphilippe, Martin)
Gobi 249:21:51 (Thomas, Barguil, Martin)
Spartacus 2 249:22:43 (Alaphilippe, Quintana, Martin)
Purdleton 249:23:41 (Thomas, Barguil, Gaudu)
The Matador 2 249:37:00 (Bernal, Kruijswijk, Reichenbach)

Many thanks to everyone for taking part. It’s all about the charity and the fun, so thanks for allowing me to entertain myself, and hopefully make a small difference in the lives of a few children.

A note will follow with the prize money allocations. If anyone is interested in a more detailed analysis I can send you the spreadsheet!

Stage 21 – Colombian Bernal takes White and wins Yellow

Nothing like a good stereotype to get the creative juices flowing. First of all apologies for the lateness of the report. The stage finished late here in France and I could not be rude and desert my hosts, and my wine, to write a report. Not sure who watched the final stage but it was a perfect end to a fantastic tour as the late evening light washed over the monuments of Paris. The cobbles of the Champs-Élysées looked to be paved in gold, which they were, metaphorically , for Egan Bernal, as he secured his, and Colombia’s first ever Maillot Jeune.

The stage followed the usual script of champagne, media stuff, arrive in Paris, small break goes, sprinters bring it back on the last lap, classic Champs-Élysées sprint. Ewan was the form sprinter coming into the final stage, so it all depended on how he got through the mountains. Maybe the shortening of the previous 2 mountain stages saved his legs. Plus I read that Lotto sent 6 guys back to him when he was struggling in the Pyrenees, on a day when he could have been out of the Tour. I wonder how much that changed his mindset as he won every sprint from that point, including the sprinters world championship in Paris. I had my money on Viviani, but I suspect the work DQS did for Alaphilippe took it’s toll on the team. Dylan Groenewegen already know how to win here, and it was a dramatic arial view with both him and Ewan sweeping past the 3 front guys, one on the left and one on the right, to dive for the line. Once again Ewan got the better of the Cloggie. Matthews was unlucky getting a mechanical with 10km to go. He got back on, but that effort took the sting out of his sprint.

Some observations on my part.

Alaphilippe was the one of the French heros in this edition. 2 stage wins, and 14 days in Yellow. He battled every day in the Alps, but in the end was found wanting, but he secured the most combative prize to get his spot on the podium.

The Tour was over when Thibaut Pinot climbed off his bike. To me he looked to be the only one to offer a challenge to the Ineos duo. A super stage win, and the respect of cycling fans around the world were his rewards.

Thomas was all class in handing the mantel to his young teammate. Bernal acknowledged him on the podium saying “Thanks to G for the opportunity”. I wonder if G just felt he didn’t quite have the form and was vulnerable to being attacked by the riders a few seconds behind him. Sending Bernal up the road on the way to Tignes, ensured that Ineos would win, and ensured him of a podium place in the end.

Bernal is looking to be the dominant rider of the next few years, and he is only 22. Had the stage to Tignes not been cancelled he would probably have won alone at the top of the climb, and possibly had enough points to win the mountains classification as well. It is going to be interesting if Froome comes back, to see what Ineos do, with 3 bona fides team leaders, all Tour de France winners.

Breaking down the stages, big winners were Michelton Scott, Jumbo Visma and Lotto all with 4 stage wins each. Jumbo also had Kruijswijk on the podium. Michelton need to think about which Yates twin might be the best for the Tour de France. DQS had 3 stage wins, Yellow jersey for 14 days and the most combative rider prize. Bahrain 2 stages, which has to be seen as a bonus. I would have expected nothing from them based on the inner tormoils of the team. A fitting end to Nibali’s career maybe? Bora, 1 stage, green Jersey and an emerging Buchmann in 4th place. FDJ and Movistar 1 stage each with the latter getting the team prize. They really need to come into the tour with a better strategy, although the two pronged attack works for Ineos. Maybe there is too much Spanish hot-headed stuff going on.

Ineos came away with 2 jerseys, Yellow and White to Bernal and a 1:2 on the podium and officially did not win a stage. Although Bernal was robbed by the French weather gods saving Alaphilippe on the road to Tignes.

Enough rambling. As we do the final stage counts in the comp we see no change in the top 3. However I expect that to change when I tally the jersey points. Big mover in the top 20, making a push for the top is Spartacus, up 15 places to 16th. Big mover, up 55 places, is The Green Machine, to sit mid table with little chance of anything other than a mention in my report. No change in the bottom 5 as Rusty Dog holds firm. Looking at his team, I think he might have sewn up the lantern rouge, but we will know that tomorrow…

 

Stage 20 – French conspiracy can’t stop Ineos

There were rumours that the tears of the French fans when Pinot abandoned, caused the snow and hail storm that saw the finish of yesterdays reduced. The shortening of the stage had some advantages to the French riders however. Even though the French experts think that Alaphilippe could have got back on on the descent, he was not making ground up on Bernal, and in the end he would have lost another 2 or 3 minutes on the final climb to Tignes. Not doing the climb allowed him to stay in contention for the podium. He missed out on that today but managed to hold on to 5th place, which is a fantastic result. If Bernal had managed to win in Tignes yesterday he would have had enough points to take the KOM jersey. As such Bardet won that by a mere 8 points, thanks to the lack of points yesterday.

Joking aside, what a race. The French were certainly not invisible this year with Alaphilippe in yellow for most of the race and Pinot animating in the Pyrenees. Alaphilippe’s courage for the fight was brilliant to watch. But in the end most of the spoils go to other nations. Bernal takes Colombia’s first ever Tour de France victory, barring disaster tomorrow. Thomas makes it a Ineos 1:2. Kruijswijk and Jumbo Visma tried to animate the stage and make it hard, but they could not shake the Ineos pair. But their tour was hardly a failure with 4 stage wins so far. Movistar on the other hand, came in with their usual confusing plan, and came away with the consolation of the team prize, a prize they win a lot, but no one remembers. Nibbles won the stage to salvage something for his efforts in the final week.

I think I got dropped today, much like Alaphilippe, struggling to find the words.

Small change in the comp with TMV4 back on top withe the usual suspects sniffing around as we get close to the final countdown. 2 big movers into the top 20 today with Isabelle the Princess of Goulbourn and Cat Six 2 both breaking into the top 20 with jumps of 16 places. Big mover mention goes to Fat Lasses at the Back 1, up 105 places to go from nowhere to somewhere just north of nowhere. No change at the botom with Rusty Dog holding a firm grip on the Lantern Rouge.

Roll on tomorrow and Caleb Ewans 3rd victory, unless Groenewegen can stop him.

Stormy day for the French

What started out bad for the French, only got worse. The real animator in the race, Thibault Pinot, abandoned due to an issue with his thigh. It was sad watching him lose time, and then eventually climb off in tears. This was probably his best chance of winning, especially with the form he was in, and the race being wide open for the first time in years. But then things got worse as the old one-two from Ineos put Alaphilippe into trouble. G went first, and then Bernal went, and it was the young Colombian who opened a 2 minute gap by the top of the L’Iseran. You would put money on Alaphilippe getting some of that time back on a descent but he did not seem to be making inroads into Bernals lead, plus with teh climb to Tignes still to come you could see that Alaphilippe was likely going to lose a bucket of time.  But in the end it was a moot point. The road to Tignes was rendered impassible due to a storm, with apparent mudslides, so the race organisation were forced to abandon the stage and declare the summit of the L’Iseran as the finish. This is the first time in the tours history that a stage has had to be abandoned. Once in 1996 Barne Riis won a shorted stage, but that was the only other time a stage was shortened. This means that Bernal gets his first stage win (not), although without being able to celebrate it, but he also wiped out Alaphilippes lead, and put time into Thomas, giving him the Yellow Jersey, which I doubt he will lose before Paris. But it should make for an exciting stage tomorrow night to Val Thorens, as long as it doesn’t snow…

I just heard that no stage winner was given for the stage, so they effectively robbed Bernal of a possible stage win, but what else could the organisers do?

July 26th has been a national day of mourning in France.

However in the tipping comp we can’t let a nullified stage result stop us. So I went with the provisional results over the top of the L’Iseran to calculate today’s points. They may not have been totally correct, although you would hope they were with a lot of mountain points on offer. As it turned out, it made no difference to the top 5 positions, with Italian Chris hanging on. Big mover into the top 20 was marker, up 11 to hit 20th spot. Big mover today was Chuck Charity 1 up 78 places. At the bottom Rusty Dog snatches the Lantern Rouge spot with Puffy moving up 10 places for some inexplicable reason.

Stage 18 – Bardet sur point, Quintana helps contract negotiations

I am thinking that Alaphilippe might actually have a small chance. What a courageous ride over 3 huge climbs. He was of course found wanting at the top of the Galibier. But what was Thomas thinking? Did they really think that Alaphilippe would not manage to descend back to them? Pinot and Thomas are not actually known for their expertise going downhill. Ineos tried some things though, sending Bernal up the road, gaining time over the finish line on everyone, including his alleged team leader Thomas. But Alaphilippe lost nothing really. Tomorrow may be a different story, but looking at the profile, they need to attack him further from the finish.

Bardet finally got the conciliation prize of the mountain jersey, and a stint on the podium, after a torrid 2 weeks. He was my pick for the Yellow, so this is some conciliation. French riders in Yellow and mountains jerseys, a good day for the French.

Interesting developments overnight with the lovable Tony Martin and pom Luke Rowe being ejected for having a crack at each other. A bit harsh I think. But 2 of the strongest teams lose a rider each, conspiracy theory, this helps Alaphilippe and Pinot with one less rider in Jumbo and Ineos…

Once again Italian Chris comes good thanks to Damiano Caruso, he keeps hanging in there. Top 3 stay the same. Big movers into the top 20 are John Sattler and Evil Pony both up 10 places to break into the top 20. Big mover, up a huge 102 spots was Cat Six 1, to slip into a challenging 150th spot. Puffy is at the bottom, nuff said… There are some challengers, laughable really.

 

Stage 17 -A bridge too far for Asgreen as Trentin gets a Gap

Four stages to go and I think I am tiring. Struggled today to find inspiration for a headline in the lounge at Heathrow, but the good news was I got to see the final 12km. It looked to be the classic pre-mountain stage with everyone with skin in the game keeping their powder dry for the three difficult days ahead. I was lucky enough to watch classic Thomas de Ghent in action straight after the start. 2km in and he went to the front and just seemed to be riding his bike. No big effort to break away. But you could see the hurt on the faces behind him as various riders legs said no, and they pulled out of the line. Eventually the gap on the way to Gap opened and the break-away was formed.

Trentin attacked at the foot of the last climb and no one could go with him. His finish line was the top of the climb. If he got there he would solo to victory. And so it was. Asgreen, the newbie on the block, having an excellent first tour, jumped with 1km to go, as that is all he knew he had in his legs, but it was too much. Trentin was too strong, and took one of the rare solo victories that sprinters hardly ever get to experience.

You need luck in the tour and you need luck in the tipping comp. Italian Chris seems to have it in spades at the moment, as Trentin was in his team. So after hanging on for 2 days scrapping for a few points, he has extended his lead. Funny how fantasy mimics reality. Giant Scott hangs on to 2nd and TMV4 slips back into 3rd. Big mover into the top 20 was Boab #5, up 12 places to 11th thanks to Trentin and Wellens. Special mention to Fat Lasses at the Back with 3 teams in the top 20, ready to mount a charge for the top in the coming days no doubt. Big mover mention goes to Mama I.C.E up 96 spots, a new comer to the mention club. But a special mention goes to Orange Cycle Lady 3 up 92 places. Mainly because she has finally achieved a lifes goal and touched Peter Sagan. She is currently in France, but after that incident she might be here longer than expected as he heads to court to take out a staking retraining order. Puffy is back, need I say more. Can’t keep a useless team down, as he makes a final push for the Lantern Rouge, and looking at his team, he is now favourite for the bottom spot in Paris.

Stage 16 – Door opens for Porte as Fuglsang sings the black and blues

Apologies for the drop in the quality of the cheesy headlines of the last few days as I cannot wait for Killing Spree to come to my rescue, due to timezone constraints. Although, not too unhappy with today’s effort after a 17 hour flight. I even managed to find the  tour on ITV4 so got to watch the last hour.

Suspect the report will be quite short today, the usual break goes, sprint teams control, break gets caught, sprint and Bosh! I read an interesting report about how the big teams control the front of the peloton to ensure the “right” break goes away, especially on a flat stage. They don’t want too many, maybe 4 or 5, cos they will run out of energy. Therefore that break should not consist of Tony Martin, Thomas de Ghent or Adam Hansen, to ensure catching them when they want to. It was interesting how vigorously the teams will actively block the road to stop anyone else getting across once they are happy with the composition of the break. I have been following the tour and cycling since the mid 70s, getting a 5 minute weekly recap of the Tour on Grandstand on a saturday, or reading Cycling Weekly. I have know that there has always been blocking tactics, but was interested to hear that Jim Ochowicz of CCC said he was surprised that blocking tactics went on? WTF Jim, how long have you been involved in cycling? Maybe that is why you haven’t won very much!

And so it was, what I said earlier, last KM and Bosh! The usual good lead out from Richeze from Quickstep, opens the door for Viviani, but Ewan started earlier and was already up to full pace. He blew past Sagan and Viviani to prove he is the form sprinter in this years tour, taking 2 stages, each one right after the rest days. If only there was a rest day before the final sprint into Paris, oh, and there wasn’t 3 monstrous days in the alps to possibly hamper the sprinters from actually getting there!

Richie benefited from another crash from Fuglsang to move into the top 10. Unusual it was not Richie crashing. G hit the deck, which is not that unusual, but didn’t look that bad.

Somehow Italian Chris has held on once again to retain top spot, but with 100 points separating the top 10 this is the closest finish the tipping comp has had I think. Giant Scott holds on to 2nd place, with newcomer Scomonabike slipping into the top 3. No real big mover into the top 20 today with a lot of single digit movers, with Sicknote 4 the best of them, up a measly 6 places. In fact there were not a lot of really big movers in the comp, with the biggest being JCB Digger up 49 places. Puffy is off the bottom, only to be replaced by ESCC compatriot Pedro Bartoli, ensuring they get 3 mentions once again.